Lesson 5: Biblical Scenarios

a bleak future There are a number of scenarios for the future in the Bible. Sadly, popular Evangelicalism

has promoted those that do not offer much hope for 21st century believers.

For instance, the Risen Jesus returning on a cloud assumes an ancient cosmology in which God resides in a heaven above and comes down to earth to rule a kingdom. The silliness of this is evident when some fundamentalists have a constantly running camera on the Mount of Olives so they will be the first to know Jesus has arrived. Besides that, a righteous monarch ruling a global kingdom no longer serves as a satisfactory image of hope.

That goes as well for scenarios where earth and heaven are completely destroyed or, for that matter, where some humans are cast onto a garbage dump or tortured eternally in a hell. It doesn’t take much thought to realize this flies in the face of God saving because he unconditionally loves the world and humans.

The intention is to promise evil shall be purged and God’s will done. Pictures of the Tribulation and Last Judgment attempt to describe the elimination of evil as a prelude to the establishment of peace, justice, and love.

It’s helpful to realize the Bible itself has a variety of scenarios, some of them revealing a tension between a sudden breakthrough in the distant future and a gradual development over time. Luke includes Mark’s and Matthew’s future return of the Risen Christ, but adds he is present now whenever even 2 or 3 of his followers gather. John speaks of the blessing “coming and now is” and emphasizes Jesus’ loving lifestyle brings union with the divine now.

Paul describes the creation groaning in labor pains rather than being destroyed. From that perspective what seems hopeless might be an indication that good things are ahead. One of my psychology professors reminded us people in counseling put up the most resistance right before they give in and improve.

Of course, there is more but I come away thinking we need new images of the future that offer hope to 21st century people. They would express the unconditional love of God, the presence of the Risen Christ among us, the promise of peace, justice, and love in the future. And they would be based on hope springing from faith, not fear.

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